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The latest issue of the New Yorker has a story on Larry Summers and his back-up dancers, i.e. Obama’s economic team. Obviously when we talk about Summers, we talk about two things: his predilection for Diet Coke and for sleeping during important meetings. Concerning the former, what does the president’s top adviser do when he wants somea that in his bloodstream, ASAP? When he’s at the White House there’s a dedicated team of servant boys whose sole purpose is to stand very still against the wall at the back of Summer’s office, loaded turkey basters in hand.* At the slightest cock of an eyebrow, the boys know what to do. (Tim Geithner has also been tasked with the responsibility of collecting Summers’ tissue spunk for chemists to analyze how elevated LS’s testosterone levels are and using the data to track down to the minute when he might get a hankering for a hit.)
It’s when Summers ventures out of the comforts of the WH–his aides don’t travel with– that things get dicey. Some offices aren’t stocked with soft drinks. Some people he takes meetings with don’t know to look for facial cues. Some amateurs who maybe don’t want to see a recovery wait until it’s too late to get the big man what he needs.
Summers looked exhausted. The previous day, he hadn’t left the White House until after midnight, and he was up at dawn to make the flight to Detroit. As Granholm talked about layoffs, he eyed a bottle of soda on the table in front of her. Summers drinks many Diet Cokes a day, and he was badly in need of one. He got up, his shirttails peeking out from underneath his jacket, and shuffled over to a counter at the side of the room in search of a caffeinated beverage. All he found was an empty glass, which he carried back to his seat. The manufacturers took turns explaining their plight. Wes Smith, of E. & E. Manufacturing, argued that although the public hates bailouts, “helping manufacturing is popular.”
As they spoke, Summers caught [Governor Jennifer] Granholm’s attention and mimed a request for some of her soda. She moved the bottle closer to him, smiling. He drank quickly, but it didn’t help. He shifted his weight in his chair. He made jerky, shaking motions with his head. He ran a hand through his hair. Still, by the time Mario Sciberras, of Saline Lectronics, was speaking about what he would do with one of the new loans, Summers was asleep. This is something of a habit: he has fallen asleep in two public meetings–and, reportedly, one private meeting–with the President this year.
Obviously there’s no one to blame here but Jennifer. So what happened next? Was the entire meeting shot to shit? Was Summers out for the next hour? Did they have to go back over everything he missed during nap time? I think not.
*There’s no time to pop open a can or unscrew a top. They’re like a firing squad back there.
Yet, when Summers came alive in the Mayor’s office, he didn’t appear to have missed a thing.
Notice the author’s word choice here– Summers didn’t appear to have missed a thing. The truth is, he didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. For all he knew they’d spent the previous ten minutes discussing boob tassels. They could’ve and he still would’ve kept up. And why? Because what we’re dealing with here is a professional. Do you have any idea how many times this guy has fallen asleep on the job? Literally, thousands. We just know about the instances that have been captured on camera. At this point, he’s got the nod-head-vigorously chime-in-with-a-yes-yes-sure, and when in doubt seductively-finger-your-neck-folds-in-an-attempt-to-distract-everyone routine down pat. New Yorker, you’ve been had.